At least Arranged understands that its message is directed at naïve children. Orthodox Jew Rochel (Zoe Lister Jones) and Muslim Nasira (Francis Benhamou), New York public school teachers, first become friends as a lesson to their class that there’s more to people than their religious outfits. Who knew? Not Rochel and Nasira’s parents, in fact, nor their boss, Principal Jacoby (Marcia Jean Kurtz), who lectures them, “You’re successful women in the modern world, except for this religion thing.” Actually, they’re less, rather than more, than their appearances—both women are almost completely uninteresting—but religion turns out to be a common bond, as both look for devout, equally uninteresting mates. What follows is a film that purports to confront the prejudices of pigeonholing people with reductive nametags, even while it flaunts one-dimensional suitors and sideshow aunts, Errol Morris-style, for the chuckling dismissal of its imagined, insulated audience. For here, there’s nothing more to life than religious distinctions except for meaningless drinking and hook-ups; and the film has it both ways in telling us that though such religious distinctions don’t matter, they’re still important to preserve. Finally, liberal guilt and conservative fanaticism can be bedfellows at last. Arranged is, ultimately, affirmative in its well-meaning, sad, and stupid thesis that religious and political understanding and acceptance can come from a kind heart and an open mind, that good feelings and a good intelligence are one and the same. Forgiveness for the film itself will take more. It’s certainly of archaeological interest for its use of real locations, demanded by the minuscule budget. As for now, it’s worth burying.
- Film Movement
- 89 min
- Diane Crespo, Stefan C. Schaefer
- Sefan C. Schaefer
- Zoe Lister Jones, Francis Benhamou, John Rothman, Mimi Lieber, Laith Nakli, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Daniel London
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